The top 20 presidents in US history, according to historians

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It should come as little surprise to anyone that, for the third time in a row, historians agree that Abraham Lincoln was the best US President.

But what about our newest former president?

As part of C-SPAN's third Historians Survey of Presidential Leadership, almost 100 historians and biographers rated the 43 former presidents on ten qualities of presidential leadership: Public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with congress, vision, pursued equal justice for all, and performance within the context of his times.

Scores in each category were then averaged, and the ten categories were given equal weighting in determining the presidents' total scores.

Notable top presidents include George Washington at No.2, Thomas Jefferson at No. 7, and Barack Obama at No. 12.

While some historians weren't entirely surprised Obama didn't rank higher on the list — "That Obama came in at No. 12 his first time out is quite impressive," Douglas Brinkley of Rice University says — others were surprised by his lower-than-expected leadership rankings, including No. 7 in moral authority and No. 8 in economic management.

"But, of course, historians prefer to view the past from a distance, and only time will reveal his legacy," Edna Greene Medford of Howard University said.

Keep scrolling to see more of the top 20 presidents, according to historians:

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The top 20 presidents in US history, according to historians
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The top 20 presidents in US history, according to historians

20. George H. W. Bush

Best leadership quality and rank: International relations (No. 8)

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19. John Adams 

Best leadership quality and rank: Moral authority (No. 11)

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18. Andrew Jackson

Best leadership quality and rank: Public persuasion (No. 7)

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17. James Madison

Best leadership quality and rank: Moral authority (No. 9)

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16. William McKinley Jr.

Best leadership quality and rank: Relations with congress (No. 10)

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15. Bill Clinton 

Best leadership quality and rank: Economic management (No. 3)

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14. James K. Polk

Best leadership quality and rank: Crisis leadership (No. 9), Administrative skills (No. 9)

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13. James Monroe 

Best leadership quality and rank: International relations (No. 7)

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12. Barack Obama

Best leadership quality and rank: Pursued equal justice for all (No. 3)

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11. Woodrow Wilson

Best leadership quality and rank: Vision (No. 7)

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10. Lyndon Baines Johnson

Best leadership quality and rank: Relations with congress (No. 1)

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9. Ronald Reagan

Best leadership quality and rank: Public persuasion (No. 5)

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8. John F. Kennedy

Best leadership quality and rank: Public persuasion (No. 6)

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7. Thomas Jefferson

Best leadership quality and rank: Relations with congress (No. 5), Vision (No. 5)

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6. Harry S. Truman

Best leadership quality and rank: Crisis leadership (No. 4), Pursued equal justice for all (No. 4)

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5. Dwight D. Eisenhower 

Best leadership quality and rank: Moral authority (No.4)

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4. Theodore Roosevelt 

Best leadership quality and rank: Public persuasion (No. 2)

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3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
 
Best leadership quality and rank: Public persuasion (No. 1), International relations (No. 1)

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2. George Washington 

Best leadership quality and rank: Economic management (No. 1), moral authority (No. 1), Performance within the context of his times (No. 1)

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1. Abraham Lincoln 

Best leadership quality and rank: Crisis leadership (No. 1), administrative skills (No. 1), Vision (No. 1), Pursued equal justice for all (No. 1)

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